Good call: cell phones can be your best weapon against attack
A colleague of mine was looking for her car in the parking lot of the Pittsburgh International Airport this past week when she realized she was being followed. It was about noon, and she had just returned home from a business trip.
Pulling a load of documents and a computer in her luggage, she was walking along a row of cars, looking for hers, when she noticed a man in a white vehicle slowly driving along directly behind her. When she stopped, he stopped. When she moved forward, he moved forward. It suddenly became clear that he was not just looking for a parking space.
Could it be an attempted abduction in broad daylight?
Sometimes we think that daylight shields us from harm. After all, it is true that most bad things happen after sundown. Especially late at night after the bad guys have had a few beers. So when something fishy starts to happen in the light of day, in a public place, it can seem surreal. My colleague was confused and frightened, but being who she is, she decided to confront the man.
She turned to face him and aggressively shouted, “What do you want?”
He wasn’t shaken. “You wanna ride to your car?” He was a big guy. Lots of muscle and girth.
For a second she wondered if the guy could be an airport employee working a shuttle system. But he was in an unmarked car, and the Pittsburgh airport runs shuttle buses, not cars.
“No!” she shouted, and continued walking.
Her first hunch was right. It was an attempted abduction in process.
She walked for another few seconds and found her car. She got in, and he passed. She locked her doors, took off, and reported the incident to security.
Faced with an unnerving situation, my colleague did everything right. She turned and faced the man so she knew what he looked like (and he knew that she could identify him). She displayed aggression, shouting a question at him and shouting back a response to his.
All of these things demonstrated that she was not going to go easy, that she would put up a fight.
The one thing she could have done, the one thing that probably would have ended the situation sooner, was use her cell phone.
Using cell phones for self defense
What would the perpetrator have done if, as soon as she noticed she was being followed, she pulled out her cell phone, held it to her ear and turned to face him? He would have thought she was reporting him to police. He would have thought that time was on his side, and he probably would have burned rubber out of there.
It’s not a guaranteed solution — predators are insane and often won’t act in rational self interest — but a cell phone in hand can deter many would-be criminals, even if the crime is in progress.
Earlier this month a female student at the University of Delaware was followed into her dorm by a stranger intent on sexual assault. She was able to text her resident assistant for help, and the man was scared away.
Also this month a woman in Niagara, Canada, was being sexually assaulted when she was able to dial 911. She kept the phone on during the attack, which gave emergency responders the signal they needed to identify the woman’s location. She was rescued and the perpetrator was arrested.
Whether you’re dealing with a threat or saving yourself when you’re under attack, your cell phone can be your very best weapon.